Saturday, April 07, 2012

The cop movie: an essay.

For all that we love a cop show, sometimes we have to ask ourselves: what may we learn, at this late date, from a new cop movie? For instance, having once viewed Training Day, is Rampart actually necessary?

Here is a list of some of the cop movies I have seen in my lifetime of movie watching:

16 Blocks; 48 Hours; A Perfect World; Along Came a Spider; American Gangster; Beverly Hills Cop 1 & 2 (but not 3)Changeling; Copland; the Die Hards; Dirty Harry; Face Off; Heat; Hot Fuzz; Inside Man; Insomnia; Kindergarten Cop; LA Confidential; several of the Lethal Weapons; several of the Mad Maxes; Miami Vice; Mystic River; Reservoir Dogs; RoboCop; both of the Rush HoursSerpico; Seven; Speed; The Departed; The French Connection; The Fugitive; The Untouchables; The Usual Suspects; We Own the Night.
This is a rather long list. I regret almost none of them. But I have to admit that mostly what these movies demonstrate is the tremendous power of the casting director of the movie, since a good actor will totally deliver a cop movie (this is true of any movie, actually). Sometimes, the movie demonstrates that  when there is a good writer, there may also follow a good story or at least good dialogue. This is also true of any genre. But these true-of-any-genre observations don't get us anywhere. Further, the genre basically delivers a fairly limited number of possible thematic configurations:
this is a movie with a bounty
of great performances, terrific
writing, well-staged action
and a palpable sense of place.
However, I enjoyed it less
than I would have predicted.
  1. Sometimes we learn that cops are very much like charismatic actors--handsome, dramatic, full of staggering hubris.
  2. Sometimes, we learn that cops and criminals are closer to alike than either cares to admit.
  3. Sometimes we learn that movie cops go on to become governors of very big states in America. 
  4. We learn, often, that there are some directors who love a cop, can't say no to a cop, and actually do very well by cop stories.
  5. Sometimes we learn from cop movies that the world is a very very dark place indeed. 
Maybe the point is that we need to be reminded of these things from time to time, and the cop movie shows up to deliver this message. I don't know. All I can say is: there are cop movies I love--in my too-big-to-be-counted list of movies I love, for instance, I include Copland and Inside Man and the Departed. 

Yet, and in conclusion, other cop movies seem to have the effect, despite a bunch of great performances, despite good writing, despite a palpable sense of place and well-staged action--despite these many virtues, these movies' sole effect seems to be the harshing of my date night.


1 comment:

  1. I saw the trailer for that and thought...while I love WH, I can't see myself enjoying that movie. Even if it was good. So I get what you're saying. Also, I loved The Departed.



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